WHEN the news broke about Cafe Rouge coming to Aberdeen there would have been few people more excited than my other half and me.
As lovers of French cuisine we’ve exhausted all the restaurants with even a whiff of France about them in Aberdeen.
And as regular visitors to the overdraft department at the bank to fund these fine tastes, the Cafe Rouge chain seemed like the answer.
Walking into a mall isn’t quite the same as strolling down the Seine in search of a cafe, but we found the cosiest little corner booth inside the restaurant and let ourselves be fooled by the cabaret music, art nouveau posters and warm atmosphere.
Sipping my glass of Cotes du Rhone, we browsed the starters and decided to share the four small dishes for £10 which came presented on a board together.
We went for duck and smoked chicken pate, which was coarse and rich – however a bit heavy on the salt – and the feta with marinated sweet pepper, which provided decent sized chunks of fresh and creamy feta with slithers of delicious red pepper.
We also went for houmous, which was served with crisped flat bread and had an incredibly savoury smoky taste with an intense garlic kick, and artichoke puree, which was so distinct tasting, mild and bitter, that neither of us could finish it.
I then opted for the boeuf bourguignon. The classic beef stew with onions, mushrooms and bacon with a red wine sauce served with french beans and creamy dauphinoise potatoes topped with gruyere cheese was potentially the heartiest dish I’ve had in the last year.
Like a classic stew from childhood, the dish left me with a warm glow and a desire to nap.
There were no delicate flavours or subtle hints – this dish was straightforward, quality, comfort food.
My other half chose a traditional French cut of steak called a bavette (200g). Looks were deceiving with this dish, as the piece of meat looked quite small at first.
My carnivore fiancee initially tore the fine cut, served bloody and swimming in garlic butter, to shreds. However half-way through, the medium-rare meat started to get the better of her.
Just sealed and no more, this is definitely the place for people who like their steak on the rarer side.
The strong taste of rosemary worked well with the meat and the garlic butter added a tartness.
The crispy thin chips, with a hint of spice, went down a treat.
We also added a side salad to introduce a bit of bright colour to our dishes – but it was hardly touched.
After swithering about whether to order dessert after such filling main courses, we plumped for the ideal option of a coffee and miniature version of one of the desserts – creme brulee was my choice.
With just the rightsugar crunch, the dish was once again simple and delicious.
Chains are known for making worldwide cuisines palatable to the majority, and Cafe Rouge isn’t an exception.
But, from our experience, its dishes haven’t lost their soul in the process.
Their food, on the whole, tasted like simple home cooking. However they managed to add their own stamp to the dishes and stayed true to the French mantra of ‘if in doubt, add more garlic’.
With a varied menu, I’ll be returning shortly to try a few more of their specialities.